A FRENCH national who damaged several Covid-19 signs in the Kinsale area last year spray-painted them with words such as ‘junk science’ and ‘no lockdown’ a court heard.
Lionel Thomas (52) of Elm Cottage, Goggin’s Hill, Ballinhassig pleaded guilty at a recent sitting of Bandon District Court to five charges of criminal damage and three trespass charges arising out of incidents that occurred last October and November.
Insp Dave Callaghan told the court that on October 21st last the external wall of Smith’s SuperValu in Kinsale was spray painted in black with the words ‘no lockdown don’t comply.’
A week later five Covid signs at a branch of Bandon Co-op in Kinsale were also spray painted with the words ‘bull,’ ‘scam,’ ‘junk’ and ‘junk science’.
On November 4th gardaí also received a report of criminal damage at Ballinspittle National School. Three Covid signs erected by the school and in the schoolyard were spray painted with the words ‘ junk’ and ‘don’t comply with bs’. There were also two similar incidents reported in the village where two signs on the Plaza were spray painted with the words ‘lies’ and ‘junk’, while signage at Barryroe Co-op was also damaged.
Insp Callaghan said that CCTV downloaded from numerous locations showed a person and a car with distinctive markings on it. ‘Mr Thomas was identified by gardaí and his house and car were searched on November 24th.
‘A number of items including clothes and black spray cans were seized and he was arrested and later charged with the offences,’ said Insp Callaghan. The total cost of damage came to €1,760.
Solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said his client, who has no previous convictions, had planned to relocate to Switzerland but was then restricted due to Covid-19. ‘He and his partner have rationalised their views on Covid-19 and they simply disagree with it and feel the restrictions are authoritarian,’ said Mr Taaffe.
He added that in ‘hindsight’ his client agrees it was the wrong way to go about it, and had brought €1,760 into court for the damage caused. ‘He apologises for his behaviour but his attitude to the pandemic is still the same.’
In convicting him of all charges, Judge McNulty removed the strict bail conditions, including a curfew and he directed that he pay all the money, the cost of the damages, to Ballinspittle National School. At a later court sitting, the judge was told that a probation report recommended that Mr Thomas was suitable for community service.
Judge McNulty directed him to carry out 100 hours of community service in lieu of 30 days in jail on the charge relating to SuperValu in Kinsale and took into consideration the other charges.
Solicitor Plunkett Taaffe also asked for personal equipment belonging to his client to be returned to him by the gardaí. These include computers, clothes and phones belonging to another occupant in the house. Insp Emmet Daly said he would look into the matter and Judge McNulty directed that all the items, except the spray cans, be returned to Mr Thomas no later than Friday July 9th.